Non-profit society will push for performing-arts centre in Kamloops

The city’s Community Services Committee will be responsible for liaising with the arts centre community society and for identifying the city’s next steps for advancing the performing-arts centre proposal

Kamloops council has directed city administration to support the formation of a not-for-profit community society, essentially made up of potential users, that will organize community support and potential fundraising for a proposed performing-arts centre.

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian told KTW the group will come before council next week.

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“I’ve said before, I feel that this is something that is missing within the menu of things we offer the citizens of Kamloops,” Christian said, falling of short of saying council has officially supported the performing-arts centre vision as presented by Ron Fawcett earlier this year.

“That’s my personal opinion. But until we have a proposal before us, then you’ll have an all in favour, seven-two, eight-one, nine-nothing kind of outcome, right?”

Despite early days, the approach is markedly different from the previous performing-arts-centre pitch.

Fawcett PAC
Ron Fawcett spoke to Kamloops council in January as he unveiled his family’s vision for a performing-arts centre downtown. - Dave Eagles/KTW

Christian said the city is looking at best practices in communities small and large across the country, following the failed referendum of 2015.

In Calgary, a performing-arts facility called Arts Commons was built for $102 million under a registered charity, including a mix of government funding from all levels and private-sector money.

On Tuesday, City of Kamloops community and protective services director Byron McCorkell called a donation pledged by the Fawcett family in Kamloops toward the initiative “very generous.”

Asked if this approach takes the financial burden off taxpayers’ backs, Christian said: “I think that we asked the taxpayers and they said they weren’t prepared to support the last proposal, so this proposal has to be different than that.

“So what kind of contribution that the city would make to this at this point in time is premature and I think you’re looking at two elements of that. One is the capital cost, which is about $20 million less than the last one, rounding it out, and the other is the operating cost, who is going to run it and that kind of thing.”

The city’s Community Services Committee will be responsible for liaising with the arts centre community society and for identifying the city’s next steps in advancing the proposal.

The decision was made by council at a closed-door meeting on May 7 as it considered an April report from the Community and Protective Services Department that included the next steps in the arts centre proposal. A memo to council in the June 11 regular meeting agenda, which includes information from the May 7 closed-door council meeting, states: “Administration has recommended to council that the city serve as an external resource to this community society as it organizes supporters and a fundraising campaign. Additional opportunities with potential financial benefits to the project that the community society could undertake include an updated business case, advancing the design work that builds upon the current Class“D estimate that was presented by Mr. Fawcett, targeted fundraising and grant applications.” The resolution to have administration support the formation of a not-for-profit community society was moved by Coun. Sadie Hunter, seconded by Coun. Mike O’Reilly and carried by council.

The proposed performing-arts centre was pitched to council in January by Kelson Group founder and philanthropist Ron Fawcett. He is proposing a publicly funded $70-million performing-arts centre for downtown Kamloops, in addition to between $8 million and $10 million he would donate via his purchase of the Telus annex building on St. Paul Street to provide 20,000 square feet of space for Western Canada Theatre and Kamloops Symphony Orchestra. The building would be adjacent to the city-owned parking lot at Seymour Street and Fourth Avenue, the site of the proposed performing-arts centre (and former home to the Kamloops Daily News). The 103,000-square-foot arts centre proposal is at the same location as an arts centre proposal that was rejected by voters in a 2015 referendum by a 54-46 per cent margin. The new proposal includes three theatres, with 1,200, 450 and 75 seats, respectively. The main building (83,000 square feet) would house a larger theatre and have a symphony shell to accommodate the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, while the medium-sized theatre would be used for Western Canada Theatre productions. The estimated $70-million cost of the proposed arts centre is more than $20 million less than the rejected proposal of 2015.

Other highlights include a cafe and outdoor cafe area, rehearsal halls and meeting spaces. The $70-million budget breakdown is as follows: $47.7 million for the main building, $6 million for design fees, $5.3 million for escalation contingency, $5.2 million for the theatre and general equipment, $3.2 million for fixtures, furniture and equipment, $2.1 million for construction oversight and $575,000 for grounds enhancement.

Following Fawcett’s presentation in January, council voted unanimously to include a performing-arts centre proposal as an item during strategic planning sessions.

• Meanwhile, the city and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc continue to work on creating a cultural centre at the former Stuart Wood elementary property downtown. The school, which is owned by the city, was closed in 2015 by the Kamloops-Thompson school district.

Since then, the city and Tk’emlups have been in discussions about creating a cultural centre in the heritage building.

Once the title of the Stuart Wood property has been reassigned to the city and the partnership with Tk’emlups has been formalized, both groups will be eligible to apply for funding from Canadian Heritage for this project. A memo from the May 7 closed-door council meeting states City of Kamloops administration recently met with Canadian Heritage staff, “who expressed interest and enthusiasm for the project and the partnership.”

© Kamloops This Week



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